Congress MLAs stage a sit-in at the entrance of the House in Gharsain on Wednesday, March 3. Speaker Premchand Agarwal stands with folded hands) . (Kalyan Das/HT photo)
Congress MLAs stage a sit-in at the entrance of the House in Gharsain on Wednesday, March 3. Speaker Premchand Agarwal stands with folded hands) . (Kalyan Das/HT photo)

Uttarakhand budget session: Chamoli cloud burst dominates Day 3

The recent Chamoli cloud burst accident dominated the third day of the Uttarakhand Budget Session on Wednesday with the Leader of the Opposition Indira Hridayesh raising the issue of disaster management, demanding a comprehensive policy for disaster management, including an early warning system for disaster
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 05:07 PM IST

The recent Chamoli cloud burst accident dominated the third day of the Uttarakhand Budget Session on Wednesday with the Leader of the Opposition Indira Hridayesh raising the issue of disaster management, demanding a comprehensive policy for disaster management, including an early warning system for disaster.

First, Congress MLAs staged a sit-in at the entrance of the House in Gharsain, holding placards against the government on Monday’s lathi-charge incident on which it had staged a walkout and sit-in protest on Tuesday as well. Villagers of the Ghat area have been agitating for the last two months in support of their demand for the widening of Nandprayag-Ghat motor road.

The protest took an ugly turn when the agitators walked up to the Assembly, only to be stopped by the police which resorted to lathi-charge. Water cannons were also used to prevent agitators from reaching the Vidhan Sabha building.

While the Congress has been raising the issue in the House for two days now, its MLAs also questioned the government on the Chamoli cloud burst and also the steps being taken to ensure such a disaster is handled better if it recurs.

Congress MLAs raised the issue by moving an adjournment motion on the same as soon as the House commenced on Wednesday. It was, however, taken up for debate by the Speaker in Zero Hour.

Hridayesh said, “Being a disaster-prone state, many lives have been lost in natural disasters such as floods, landslide, flash floods, and earthquake. Recently, the state faced the Chamoli disaster in which many people died after being trapped in the tunnel. Before that, the country was shaken by the 2013 Kedarnath tragedy. Considering all these, the government should consult experts and frame a comprehensive disaster management policy including an early warning system on the disaster so that lives aren’t lost.”

She also cited the strategic importance of the border areas of the state. “The government should take efficient steps for disaster management in the border areas so as to prevent migration of residents from there as it is important from a strategic and security point of view to make the residents stay there.”

Another Congress MLA from Ranikhet, Karan Mahra, questioned the government on resources required for handling such disasters. “In the Chamoli disaster, it was learnt that many people died in the tunnel after about five days due to lack of oxygen inside. If there was proper equipment to supply oxygen there, those lives could have been saved. The government should scan such equipment being used in other countries and procure them for better disaster management,” said Mahra.

Congress MLA from Dharchula, Harish Dhami, cited flash floods and landslide in his constituency last year in which 21 people died and accused the government of “not doing enough for the disaster victims including rehabilitation and providing compensation”.

“The disaster wreaked havoc in the area but the government seems not to be taking it seriously. But it is beyond understanding that the government is doing the rehabilitation of the affected families on the basis of the 2011 census for a disaster that happened in 2020,” said Dhami.

Replying to the Opposition, parliamentary affairs minister Madan Kaushik spoke about the various steps being taken on disaster management, including “forming a committee comprising scientists on February 22 in the aftermath of Chamoli disaster to provide suggestions to handle disasters in a better way”.

“The government is working on an early warning system for disasters, but it would take some time as it is not an easy process and needs several analyses,” he said.

“The government will install a second Doppler radar in the state, and weather warning equipment in 176 places. As many as 839 families from 395 disaster prone villages have been rehabilitated since 2013 Kedarnath tragedy,” he said.

While Kaushik was still speaking, Congress MLAs Dhami and Rajkumar staged a walkout citing the government reply as “unsatisfactory.”

The House also tabled two amendment bills related to providing land ownership rights to women and other related to the Panchayati Raj system in the state.

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